Last Friday, on March 28, ENV hosted a roundtable meeting about investigating and prosecuting major wildlife crime syndicates. The meeting involved representatives of environmental and economic police, prosecutors and judges.
During the meeting, participants had a refreshingly frank and open discussion about legislative loopholes, and the obstacles to crime investigation and the prosecution of key players in criminal networks. Some major concerns were raised during the meeting; some participants indicated that they are dissatisfied with legislations produced by the Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), as they believe that some policies have an adverse impact on wildlife protection efforts in Vietnam. A representative of the Environmental Police added that, “the low risk of long term prison sentences, paired with the “attractive” advance agreements that minor wildlife criminals make with key players of the criminal network [such as to accept responsibility for the crime without giving law enforcement further information on other members, in return for family protection or financial stability], it is very difficult to obtain information or establish links between arrested middle men or drivers and major figures of a criminal network; thus major figures of criminal networks always manage to be safe from further investigation and prosecution.” Because of this, the cycle of wildlife crime continues despite prosecutions of low level network members; the incentives outweigh the risks.
The meeting was a great success in terms of attendance from many key figures, and valuable insights gained into the perspectives of law enforcement and policy makers. This round table is another building block for ENV to use to continue to lobby for effective and properly implemented legislation that will offer consistent protection to protected species.